Fantasy football and DFS players may have noticed a loophole recently when glancing at Saints quarterback Taysom Hill’s player page. On those two sites, Hill is listed as a tight end.
Hill has been TE-eligible on ESPN and FanDuel all season, but it’s gotten extra attention before New Orleans’ Week 11 game against the Falcons because Drew Brees is hurt. Reportedly cracked ribs and a collapsed lung are expected to keep Brees out of that contest, leaving Jameis Winston and Hill as the healthy quarterbacks for Sean Payton. Payton announced Hill will get the start at quarterback in Week 11.
On the Saints’ depth chart this season, it’s been Hill listed as Brees’ direct backup, but as most expected, it was Winston throwing most of the passes after Brees got hurt in Week 10 against the 49ers. Hill saw a season-high snap percentage, though, and it’ll likely increase against the Falcons. What’s the big deal? Most quarterbacks outscore most tight ends every week, so if Hill gets legitimate quarterback usage, he becomes a sort of fantasy-football cheat code to play in the tight end spot on ESPN and FanDuel.
Here’s how Hill wound up as a controversial fantasy option.
Why is Taysom Hill a TE on ESPN, FanDuel?
On April 29, ESPN’s Mike Clay announced that Hill would be tight end and flex-eligible during the 2020 NFL season. It’s less clear when FanDuel made that call, although Hill has been listed as a TE on that site since Week 1, and at some unannounced point in 2019 Hill actually became TE-eligible on FanDuel already.
Sporting News explored Hill’s alignment data early this year and found that he spent more time lined up in a receiver role than as a quarterback in the 2019 season. That’s the obvious reason for why Hill was given a different designation. It happens in other sports frequently, like a former catcher playing mostly first base and losing his catcher eligibility in baseball. It’s less common in football, but it’s a logical adjustment for Hill.
Clay’s tweet from April did have a warning, though, that “We reserve the right to strip TE/Flex and add QB if he takes over as starter during the 2020 season.” That hasn’t happened yet on ESPN, but maybe if Winston was hurt too, it would.
As far as the other major sites go, Hill is listed as a QB on CBS, NFL.com, MyFantasyLeague, Yahoo and DraftKings.
Taysom Hill eligibility on Yahoo, others
While Hill is eligible at tight end on ESPN and FanDuel, the other major fantasy football sites list him as a quarterback. There’s a ‘QB’ next to Hill’s name on Yahoo, DraftKings, CBS, NFL.com and MyFantasyLeague.
While the sites haven’t specifically listed their reasoning, Yahoo’s help section writes, “Position eligibility is determined by a player’s past participation and info our data provider collects from NFL teams. Our data provider makes the final decision (there’s no set criteria) on position eligibility including when a new position is added. If it’s determined that a player’s primary position has changed, then that player gains eligibility for the new position but won’t lose their original designation.”
Usually, these fantasy football providers follow a player’s listed position by a team to determine his fantasy-eligible position. In Hill’s case, he’s listed as a quarterback by the Saints and has been treated as such by the non-ESPN and FanDuel providers.
Similarly, the fantasy sites all list Cordarrelle Patterson of the Bears as a wide receiver despite his frequent usage as a running back in the current Chicago offense.
How Taysom Hill’s TE eligibility breaks fantasy football
In 2019, Hill would’ve ranked 112th among flex-eligible players in fantasy points. Each week, the SN flex rankings go 120 players deep, so he would’ve been consistently on that list if leagues allowed him to be played in such a slot. At tight end, his 2019 point total would’ve placed him 21st among tight ends, usable in deeper leagues.
Most of that fantasy point accumulation came while playing a gadget role, though. Let’s go to the extreme and imagine that Hill played an entire game at quarterback for the Saints. While we haven’t seen that and it’s hard to predict his exact point total, we could expect much more than what he put together per game in 2019 or so far this year.
The top-scoring fantasy tight end in non-PPR leagues in 2020 is Travis Kelce, with 110.9 fantasy points, and then there’s a wide gap to Jonnu Smith in second with 73.9. Kelce’s point total would rank 28th among quarterbacks, behind Baker Mayfield, while Smith is even further down the list among the ranks of the injured and benched.
That’s to say that a full game of Hill at quarterback might easily make him the highest scoring tight end in a week. Even just some snaps at QB likely make Hill a top-10 player at the position, a start-worthy player in basically every league.
At least in ESPN season-long leagues, Hill can only be on one roster. In FanDuel’s daily-fantasy contests, Hill is not only TE-eligible, but he’s also priced at $4,500 for Week 11, which is $2K lower than the Sunday main slate’s top tight end, Mark Andrews. That makes Hill an immense value if he winds up near the top of the tight end leaderboard in Week 11, and likely will push his ownership percentage sky high, almost like a free space in bingo.
Since FanDuel made the Hill position switch midway through the 2019 season without much announcement, maybe it’ll make a similar move in the other direction for Week 12. And ESPN has reserved the right to change Hill’s position, too. But for at least Week 11, in a mouth-watering matchup to boot, Hill shapes up as a fantasy-football cheat code.